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Frances Ellen Watkins Harper Biography and Poems

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper Biography and Poems. This is biographical information on Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, one of the best poets of all time. This biography page also provides a link to poems written by Harper, as well as, a video biography...if available.

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Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (September 24, 1825-February 22, 1911), was an African-American writer, lecturer, and political activist, who promoted abolition, civil rights, women's rights, and temperance. She helped found or held high office in several national progressive organizations. She is best remembered today for her poetry and fiction, which preached moral uplift and counseled the oppressed how to free themselves from their demoralized condition.


Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (24 September 1825 - 22 February 1911) born to free parents in Baltimore, Maryland, was an African American abolitionist and poet.

Her mother died three years later and she was looked after by relatives. She was educated at a school run by her uncle, Rev. William Watkins until the age of thirteen when she found work as a seamstress.

Her first volume of verse, Forest Leaves, was published in 1845, the book was extremely popular and over the next few years went through 20 editions. In 1850, she started working in Columbus, Ohio as a schoolteacher. Three years later in 1853, she joined the American Anti-Slavery Society and became a travelling lecturer for the group. She was also a strong supporter of prohibition and woman's suffrage. She often would read her poetry at these public meetings, including the extremely popular Bury Me in a Free Land.

In 1892, she published a novel about a rescued black slave and the Reconstructed South, called Iola Leroy, one of the first books published by an African American. Later, she also wrote Minnie's Sacrifice, Sowing and Reaping and Trial and Triumph.

Harper was a strong supporter of women's suffrage and was a member of the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA).

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